Anti-bullying everyone’s business
Alan Stewart, Staff Writer
I remember it like it was yesterday.
As a short, skinny, freckle-faced sixth grader at Clarksville Middle School, I took part in a school trip to Chicago. During the nearly week-long adventure, students were bunked four to a hotel room. Unfortunately, we had no choice in who we would share sleeping quarters with.
As luck would have it, I got roomed with one of the biggest punks at CMS, and he did everything he could within the first few hours of our arrival to make my life a living hell, partly from his insistence that he give someone meek (aka me) a wedgie.
Eventually, he made me a deal I couldn’t refuse: one solid, atomic wedgie and he wouldn’t bother me the rest of the trip. It was a slam-dunk decision as we would both get what we wanted (not that I wanted the wedgie, but I wanted this git to leave me alone).
I sat there on the edge of the bed, he tugged, my underwear screamed and, true to his word, he didn’t bother me again the rest of our time in the Windy City. I don’t know if it’s because he was a man of his word or because he couldn’t believe I took the punishment of having my skivvies tugged almost to my neck.
Regardless, that was my first exposure to bullying. It wasn’t the last time I’d be bullied in school; admittedly, I did my share of bullying, too.
That was in the ’80s, and times were different. Words now synonymous with bullying retaliation like ‘Columbine’ and ‘Newtown’ wouldn’t become part of our culture for another three decades.
These days students are urged by teachers and school administrators to not bully fellow students. I’m positive my nemesis in Chicago wouldn’t have cared what they thought.
This week, the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which was founded in 2010 after Rutgers student Tyler Clementi died by suicide after severe cyberbullying, is working to address the harmful and often tragic effects that bullying has on youth inside and outside the classroom.
The ‘Day 1 Campaign’ will try to build on student responsibility by placing some of the anti-bullying effort on teachers, administrators, coaches and any other adult in positions of authority.
More than 3.2 million students identify as victims of bullying each year, and bullying is linked to truancy, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide. Clear, early leadership on bullying can reduce a host of negative educational, professional and psychological outcomes. The campaign, which uses #Day1 on social media, is an innovative, research-based intervention program, based on the principle that prevention is better than remediation. #Day1 is not just about awareness; it’s about taking action.
The campaign requires four main elements: 1) A person in authority, 2) clearly saying what behavior is expected and what behavior is not tolerated, 3) early in the tenure of new students/employees/athletes and 4) receiving a verbal confirmation from the audience that they understand.
Leaders take matters into their own hands and declare that bullying, cruelty, harassment and humiliation are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. They can download a free declaration from day1campaign.com and read it at the first day of school, work, practice, fraternity pledge program or anywhere.
Those who hear the message will then sign pledge cards that they understand the message and, thereby, become Upstanders, who make a commitment to taking a personal stand to intervene or report cruelty whenever and wherever it is witnessed.
Wedgies, hazing and general harassment (even if it’s online) isn’t just boys and girls being boys and girls anymore. Those who think otherwise need to be shouted down. ‘It’s none of my business’ isn’t acceptable anymore.
Anti-bullying should be the business of everyone.